Tag Archives: Ann Pappert

Is the Dark State ruling Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

May 23, 2017

Yes, who is running our city? Why have there been so many closed session meetings of council? Whose reputation is being protected?  Why is the public’s right to know being consistently thwarted?

In a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star, Pat Biondi, takes umbrage over an editorial in the paper entitled: Long live the deep state in Washington – May 19.

Biondi’s opening paragraph set the stage for a blistering criticism saying, “I could not believe the Toronto Star, the self-proclaimed bastion of democracy, would stoop to such a level.”

At this point, I should reveal the headline of the letter: “Civil servants subvert the will of the people.” Such headlines are designed to capsulate the content of the letter but also to attract the reader.

It sure got my attention.

Biondi went on to say, “that in a democracy, it is the elected officials empowered by virtue of the ballot box. It is those same politicians who are held accountable for their actions the next time the electorate is asked to pass judgment on their performance while in office.”

That has a familiar ring about it when it is applied to Guelph governance. Looking back, the electorate in Guelph responded in October 2014 to defeat the mayor and two of her council supporters plus two others who chose not to run.

Biondi continues: “A deep state (i.e. civil servants) working in the shadows is the antithesis of what democracy is all about. The notion that a few unelected and unaccountable career civil servants can subvert the will of the people expressed in a free election is absurd and dangerous in the extreme.”

Starting to see what the letter writer is talking about as it’s applied to the unelected senior management of the City of Guelph in the past 10 years?

It’s no secret there has been an inordinate amount of turmoil in the past two years not only among the senior staff but also with the hardworking rank and file who carry out their orders. Look no further than the lawsuit by a fired 30-year veteran of the city Building Department, Bruce Poole, who performed as Chief Building Inspector for the past 20 years.

Mr. Poole sued for $1 million for wrongful dismissal by former Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert.

Follow a mysterious dump of some 53,000 emails sent to Poole’s lawyer containing hundreds of confidential and personal information, the case was promptly settled by the city. It was a legacy left by the former top civil servant for the citizens to pay.

Here is another statement by Biondi. “ When a society is governed by a deep state, democracy crumbles and anarchy ensues.”

Isn’t this the accurate description of how Guelph has been controlled by a two-term autocratic mayor and equally pervasive senior civil servants? They were really running the city with the support of a council that rolled over in their sworn responsibilities to the public.

The examples of that eight-year domination of Guelph governance have been well documented. Millions were wasted on social engineering projects under the guise of world leadership. This included making the city into a world-class leader in the environment, reduction of greenhouse gases, and restriction of vehicular traffic routes to accommodate bicycle lanes and waste management.

What really occurred in that time period, was increased property taxes by a compounded 36.7 per cent; the cost of basic civic services such as electricity and water soared; waste management’s so-called innovation racked up millions in operations and capital and it mostly occurred in secret sessions of council.

Autocratic senior managers and members of council, almost all who have left the city, for a variety of reasons, have left a legacy of alleged corruption and financial mismanagement. Yet, the disastrous policies of the previous administration continue to be supported by the majority of the current council.

Any evidence of city council working together to solve the tattered legacy of the previous administration has not happened in three years. The majority of council is known as the Bloc of Seven as they frequently vote as a bloc thereby dominating the 13-member council.

Regardless, some pluses have occurred, including revelation of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMH. This wholly owned subsidiary of the city is the most costly failure by the previous administration. Chaired by the mayor, this functioned under the Community Energy Initiative, with former CAO Pappert as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI for four years.

Losses to date are $26.6 million plus a $60 million impaired loan from Guelph Hydro that has no collateral in GMHI to even pay the interest. That loan now sits on the city books as a declining asset.

Are you starting get the picture? In my opinion, this is why there is a concerted effort to sell Guelph Hydro, wholly owned by the city, to cover up the huge liability of GMHI.

Ms. Pappert left the city in May 2016, following publication of the provincial Sunshine List in March 2016 of those earning more than $100,000. It reported that she had received an annual salary of $237, 501. This was received even though she only worked five months in 2016. Her increase, along with three other senior managers, was approved in a closed-session meeting of council December 10, 2015. The public was made aware of the $98,202 awarded to four top managers in March when the Sunshine list revealed the increases.

In view of this, why does the mayor continue to endorse Ann Pappert who is seeking a new job? Mr. Guthrie is mentioned twice endorsing Ms. Pappert in her lengthy new profile posted on LinkedIn

It’s all part of the culture of entitlement that pervades the senior management of our city from civil servants to elected councillors. Both share responsibility with one glaring exception: Every four years, councillors must face their constituents and explain their performance. Meanwhile, the hired staff is free to carry on as if there was no election.

A clear example was the reorganization of the top senior staff in November 2014. CAO Ann Pappert conducted the reorganization during the lame-duck period between the changes of administrations. Mr. Guthrie took over December 1, 2014. The new council never had the opportunity to approve the new management arrangement because it was not in charge at the time.

It only took 13 months for the top four managers to receive hefty increases and the public was never informed until March 2016.

I realize that some GS readers are critical of the constant reporting of this event.

It states truth to power and the perpetrators got away with it and now only one is left, CAO Derrick Thomson.

Judge for yourself; is this a responsible and honourable way to run our city of 131,000?

Only if a resolute, informed and politically centrist group of councillors are elected in 2018, can necessary true reform and change occur.

 

I would be interested in hearing from readers about their feelings, good, bad or indifferent. Send your comments to guelphspeaks.ca or email gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Your identity will be protected if requested. Thank you.

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The high cost of departed senior City of Guelph managers

By Gerry Barker

May 18, 2017

We learned this week that former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ann Pappert is looking for a job according to an extensive online Linkedin profile. Ms. Pappert left the city last May 26 for a new position as Assistant Deputy Minister in the Tourism, Culture and Sport Ministry.

That position lasted from October 2016 to February 2017. For whatever reason, she left prior to expiry of her six months probation. The 2016 Ontario Sunshine List shows Ms. Pappert received $263,757 from the city of Guelph although she only worked barely five months. The question is: What were the other benefits to which she could have been entitled? What were the terms of her contract? Such benefits could include pension, car allowance, unused vacation and/or sick time, travel expenses and insurance.

We do know that part of her package awarded in December 10, 2016, during a closed session by council, was reimbursement of unused vacation time, and a $28,000 retroactive performance bonus. Much has been written about that closed session but there has been no official acknowledgement or explanation why Ms. Pappert, Al Horseman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi were given such high increases.

The kicker is not one person in the entire Guelph administration said a word about those increases until the Sunshine List was published in March 2016.

The revelation ignited a wave of the four senior manager’s departures. Pappert left in May, Thomson resigned shortly after the Sunshine list announcement to take a job with the Town of Caledon, Al Horsman left in August 2015, and Mark Amorosi left the city last February.

These four executives were handsomely rewarded by a gob-struck city council, in secret, not having the guts to tell the people who pay the bills. To this day the minutes of that closed session are locked up. I know, I tried to get them released. Turns out the special “Closed Session Investigator,” a city paid consultant from London took four months to even reply to my request. Their opinion is that the city acted according to the rules of the Ontario Municipal Act.

The thing that citizen’s should take away from all this behind closed-door handling of the public’s business is that our Mayor, Cam Guthrie, went along with it.

Today only Mr. Thomson remains the last of four top senior managers who, after resigning, was hired last June to take over the CAO’s job. Why wouldn’t he? His first year on the job will earn him $245,000 including a $9,900 car allowance. To his credit he went public with his salary.

There were some astonishing inclusions and exclusions.

According to the 2016 Provincial Sunshine list, former CAO, Ann Pappert, was paid $263,757.32 in 2016. Now you would assume that was for the year but Ms. Pappert left the city May 26, 2016, Seems like a lot of money for less than five months work. Why did she earn a $28,000 performance bonus? People earning performance bonuses don’t plan to leave, so why did she leave Guelph?

Checking the 2015 Provincial Sunshine list it showed Ms. Pappert was paid $226,060.96.

The only possible conclusion was that Ann Pappert was paid $489,818.26 for 17 months work as CAO, from January 1, 2015 to May 26, 2016. That works out to a monthly salary of $28,812.

At those rates, why did she resign when the Sunshine List revealed her increase onMarch 2016?

So while her provincial government job did not pan out there are still many unanswered questions about that December 10, 2015 closed council meeting. A total of $98,202 salary increases was awarded to Ms. Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer’s (DCAO) Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi.

But there is more:

Former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, left the city in August 2015. Today his name shows up receiving $188,999 in the Sunshine 2015 report, the equivalent of a full year on the job. Not bad for eight months work … in 2015. The question is, why did Horsman leave? He was deposed as CFO in the November 2014 reorganization of the senior management and switched to the Waste Management, Environmental Services and Engineering portfolio.

Former CAO Ann Pappert supervised that reorganization, following the 2014 civic election.

Horsman discovered the debacle of the deal made with the Rizzo brothers of Detroit to recycle material shipped from the motor city. The deal fell apart and was reported to have cost Guelph some $2.5 million. In December 2015, Solid Waste General Manager Dean Wyman, who was involved in the Detroit deal, left for a similar job in Edmonton.

DCAO Scott Stewart is now engaged in a rationalization procedure to discover and fix why the Waste management operating costs are losing $270.000 a year.

With Horsman gone, it left just three Senior managers, CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson.

The revelation of the large increase awarded by council to the remaining three top managers in March 2016, triggered the resignation of Mr. Thomson who said he was taking a job with the Town of Caledon. In April, Ms. Pappert announced she was resigning. But Mr. Thmson came back.

Along with her duties as CAO, Ms. Pappert was also Chief Executive Officer CEO) of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), for four years. As CEO she signed off, along with her successor at GMHI, Pankaj Sardana. They jointly presented the report to council, acting as shareholders, May 16, 2016. It revealed that the city-owned GMHI was broke and had lost $26.6 million. Ten days later she left her job.

The unfolding story of GMHI leaves many questions to be answered.

Was Ann Pappert paid two salaries for her two senior responsibilities as CAO of Guelph and CEO of GMHI?

Why did two Councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wetstein, both appointed to the GMHI board, not report to council about operations? The chair, former Mayor Farbridge, appointed them. Did they not realize that appointment carried specific fiduciary responsibilities to the public?

What was the role of Guelph Hydro in the Community Energy Initiative program?

How much did Guelph Hydro invest in GMHI in four years?

Why did Guelph Hydro loan GMHI $65 million without any collateral or expectation of repayment?

How can GMHI give the city $9 million over four years in dividends and lose $26.6 million in the same period?

Were the GMHI financial books audited, if so by whom and when?

What was the impact of Guelph Hydro bills to residents during the five year period, 2011 to 2015?

Will the city reveal the total wind-up costs of GMHI and when?

How do GMHI’s financial costs and losses impact the sale of Guelph Hydro?

Is the potential Guelph Hydro sale to pay off these GMHI losses and clear the city books of the debt?

This is the result of misuse of political power and mismanagement of city resources.

The closed session meetings, regardless of what the staff says, are nothing short of secret manipulation of events and decisions. Much of it is political because the city has been held hostage for the past ten years by the political left, supported by the powerful labour movement.

If the majority of citizens don’t complain and demand answers from their elected representatives, then nothing will change. Property taxes will continue to grow exponentially annually. The same will happen with user fees.

The fall-out is that we allowed a CAO to leave this city after receiving more than a million dollars after just over five years on the job.

We can only blame ourselves for allowing it to happen.

Our only chance for electing responsible and experienced councillors next year, to clean up the financial mess the city is in to reduce the operating overhead, restore the reserves and demand performance of the professional staff.

 

 

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When it comes to managing city finances we are sheep without a shepherd

By Gerry Barker

May 15, 2017

Having lived in Guelph for 14 years, I cannot understand how a city of 131,000 people has not had an independent Chief Financial Officer for 30 months. Here’s the scorecard since the able David Kennedy was dismissed in 2007: There have been seven individuals acting as CFO in the past ten years.

The seventh is Tara Baker, a senior analyst in the Finance Department who is coming off maternity leave to take the reins over from James Krauter, the current acting General Manager of Finance.

In that 30-month period, the city lost key senior management personnel. That’s about how long it took the secret Manhattan project to detonate the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945.

Here is a partial list of the departed:

Operations Chief Derek McCaughan;

Chief of environmental services and engineering, Janet Laird;

Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman;

Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert;

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi;

City Solicitor, Donna Jaques;

General Manager of Solid Waste, Dean Wyman;

General Manager and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy;

General Manager and Treasurer, Katrina Power;

Deputy City Engineer, Don Kudo;

Fire Chief, Shawn Armstrong.

Operating the city efficiently and responsibly, these 11 senior employees represented various city departments. Nevertheless, it remains an abdication by the council failing to maintain a senior management staff.

So, what happened? What were the reasons for some to leave that were earning top rated salaries, some exceeding $200,000 per year? Who would walk away from a job like that with security, great benefits and working conditions?

It is easy to assume that the majority of elected members of the administration, commonly known as the Bloc of Seven, were responsible for the dissatisfied defections.

Or, was it influenced by the defeat of former Mayor Karen Farbridge in October 2014?

When it comes to finger pointing, the underlying reason is too much city business is conducted behind closed doors.

The discovery of what’s going wrong lies with a few reporters and bloggers who try to pry back the lid of cover-ups, to report what is going on in the management of our city. I can assure you, it is not easy and I have the experience to know the high cost of defending details of secret meetings and information that I discovered.

Wanted: A new shepherd to run our finances

That’s because the elected majority of council believe we are sheep to be sheared every year to pay for the past mismanagement of our business and its cost to citizens. There are many citizens who try to stand up to the administration. At this time, there is no underlying civic activist umbrella organization to support and work to change the policies of a cadre of city managers and councillors. The politicization of some senior staff is perpetuating policies of a former administration that was responsible for wasting millions.

That’s why we need an independent, experienced Chief Financial Officer to put on the brakes of spending and reform financial management.

Sometimes GS is criticized for being negative and beating the same drum repeatedly.

But I’m a taxpayer and have to right to comment and criticize. The law in Ontario is very clear that authorities cannot suppress public participation in public business by taking legal action against any citizen to stop their right to speak up.

Guelph City Council took another step in late 2015 to suppress resident’s critical commentary and objections to political action by passing the Indemnification Bylaw 19995. It guarantees reimbursement of any legal costs as a result of a citizen taking legal action against any member of the administration including elected officials.

Summarizing this action: If you initiate legal action against anyone in the administration, that individual has his/her legal expenses paid by … you, the complainant! Last February, CAO Derrick Thomson stated that this bylaw covers all former employees who are involved in a legal procedure with a citizen or corporation.

The only case I can recall was Bruce Poole’s million-dollar suit against the city for wrongful dismissal. It was settled quickly following the accidental release of 53,000 emails by the city to Poole’s lawyer that had little to do with the lawsuit.

Is the city paying Mr. Poole’s legal expenses? After all, he was a former employee and presumably entitled.

Killing online voting for the wrong reasons

But it gets better. Recently city council voted against allowing online voting in the 2018 election. Only six members voted to allow online voting, Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Christine Billings, Cathy Downer, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond and Mark MacKinnon. The motion was defeated despite the pleas by citizens to allow it so that the elderly, informed and disabled citizens could vote.

This is another suppression of the rights for all citizens to participate and vote in civic elections. The City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, informed council that online voting was used in the 2014 civic election advance poll. More than 12 600 votes were cast and no reports of voter fraud or problems. There are some 90 Ontario municipalities using online voting.

Now do you see us as sheep being herded around without recourse or little ability to express ourselves?

I for one refuse to believe I am a sheep to be shorn by hypocrisy, lies and ineptitude. I have paid a price for my opinions and reporting of facts. Remember, we sheep changed the city administration big time in the 2014 civic election. The regressives were shocked and, in my opinion, are seeking revenge.

It’s time to put the flock back together again and defeat the Bloc of Seven regressive councillors in their own bailiwick, and take back our city.

Baaaa, Baaaa, Baaaa

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Royal City Blues: A documentary

By Gerry Barker

March 20, 2017

If there ever was the opportunity to develop a documentary to describe the woeful record, it is now outlining how three administrations have lost more than $136 million in ten years. Perhaps it’s time to reconcile the city’s finances by hiring a Chief Financial Officer with experience and savvy.

Here is a draft outline that details the events that have drained the financial resources of the city, to the extent that the current Guthrie administration is engaged in selling Guelph Hydro to rebuild the financial losses of previous administrations.

The Guthrie administration is hamstrung to even pay for needed infrastructure repairs and replacements, let alone reducing costs. A new city report clearly states that it is going to cost double what the administration estimated when approving the 2017 budget.

And council couldn’t even get that straight when it voted to double the so-called special property tax levy from one per cent to two percent. The staff recommended a one per cent levy to help pay for the infrastructure costs but council added another one per cent to pay for “city buildings.” The reality? It is an attempt to start construction of the $60 million South End recreation centre.

Trouble is there is no capital funding for this project. So council approved shelving some $700,000 to replace the parking meters downtown, a project in the 2016 budget, to produce parking revenue. Then council turned around and spent some $650,000 toward pre-construction costs of the South End recreation centre.

Most people would believe this is a commitment to proceed with the project. Most people will figure out what is occurring is a back-door attempt to force the next council to come up with the capital funding for the project.

Both Ward Six councillors, Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, pushed this attempt to force future councils to pay for it.

Is this any way to run a city? Any way to mortgage future generations of residents to pay for something they did not vote for? Is it right to ignore the costs of infrastructure to assuage the desires of a minority of citizens?

Already, there are decisions being made to ensure the re-election of the present majority of council including the mayor. A key problem is the greatly diminished level of reserves that have been used to shore up projects and balance sheets for far too long.

That’s where we stand today. But let’s look back at how and when we got into this mess.

Back to the future, Guelph style

In February, City Solicitor, Donna Jaques, resigned and left for a job in North Bay with the Ontario Northland Railway. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, who was dismissed, followed right after her departure. They are yet further additions to the exodus of senior executives leaving the city since Mayor Cam Guthrie was elected. Scott Worsfold, another city lawyer resigned last fall.

More than 20 senior managers have left the city since 2014. These are the people who administer the operations of our corporation. In any business, the adage is it’s more difficult to replace a key employee than to fire the incumbent.

An example is the recent announcement that the General Manager of the Community Energy Initiative (CEI), Rob Kerr, has been dismissed. At the same time the city is setting up a Climate Change Office. Is this really needed? Premier Wynne is already taxing us through our Hydro bills for our use of household fossil fuels. These include use of natural gas in a variety of appliances including barbeques, stoves, dryers, fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters.

And now we need a Climate Change Office?

What follows is a documentary of how our city investments have been squandered by three administrations. Since 2007, these administrations have created social engineering projects that most people did not request or want.

It documents abuse of the public trust, its right to know and participate. We have been subjected to absolute control, secrecy, distortion of facts and unparalleled arrogance. So, we can only blame ourselves as we elected them. Here is a record of how our money was misused and managed without recourse on our part.

Scene One: The genesis of a financial disaster

It’s early in January 2007 when the newly elected Mayor of Guelph, Karen Farbridge, persuades leaders of organizations across the city to join, creating the Community Energy Initiative. More than 20 prominent individuals accepted her invitation to join and participate. They represented the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, The University of Guelph, Guelph Hydro, Industrial and commercial leaders and energy experts.

Little di we know then of the impact on city finances of this project.

Scene Two: Spending $16 million renovating a derelict building on someone else’s property

Mayor Farbridge becomes immersed in running her city and introducing a number of initiatives. These included approval of spending $12.7 million to move the Civic Museum into a leased former derelict convent next to The Church of Our Lady. This project took five years to complete and cost more than $16 million. Of that amount, the federal and provincial governments provided roughly $6 million. As an aside, more than $1 million was spent landscaping the hill in front of the Museum, on land the city does not own.

Scene Three: The $33 million great landfill diversion scheme

With little public input, council approved a new solid-waste management system. It included spending $33 million on an organic waste-processing facility that had a processing capacity that was three times the needs of Guelph for 20 years. It was operated by Aim Environmental a subsidiary company of the builder of the plant, Maple Reinders. Another Maple Reinders subsidiary called Organix sold the compost produced.

Details of the organic operation were never revealed to the public, including the sale of the composted material. The city management said it could not reveal the details because of “private proprietary interests.” An internal audit of the waste- management operations in 2016 revealed it was losing $270,000 a year. The Executive Director of Environmental Services, Janet Laird, resigned after the 2014 election. Her General Manager, Dean Wyman, left in December 2015 for a job in Edmonton.

The department is now undergoing a rationalization study to develop a greater degree of effiency and reduce reduce costs of an operation that is losing $270K a year. This is under the leadership of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, (DCAO) Scott Stewart. Good luck, Scott.

Scene Four: A fateful decision to get tough and lose millions

It’s spring 2008. Mayor Farbridge was getting impatient about the progress of General Contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Corporation, building the new city hall and renovating the old city hall into a provincial court. The original contract was $42 million for both projects. On September 19, 2008, Acting CAO Hans Loewig ordered Urbacon off the site, supported by Guelph Police.

For his loyalty, former CAO Loewig was given a four-year contract starting at $199,000 plus generous benefits, including several weeks of vacation annually. Ann Pappert replaced him in 2012.

Urbacon responded by suing the city for breach of contract and sought $19,184,181.71 in damages. This began a legal wrangle that lasted for five years and eventually included five lawsuits. Fast forward to March 2014. Justice Donald MacKenzie delivered a stunning verdict in favour of Urbacon and chastised the chief city witness, the site manager, Murray McRae for his testimony. The mayor’s impatience cost a $23 million overrun of the new city hall, from $42 million to $65 million.

Here is a comment from a guelphspeaks posting September 9, 2014:

“This remains an epic error in judgment for which the Farbridge administration must take responsibility. How can they say, with a straight face, that the costs are covered and there will be no impact on taxpayers? They’re manipulating your money to suit their agenda and again avoiding responsibility.”

As it turned out, it was CAO Ann Pappert, who made that claim misleading the citizens.

Scene Five: The year of multi-mistakes leading to the defeat of the mayor

Election year 2014, witnessed several events. They included the Urbacon decision, transit strike and approval of the $34 million police HQ renovations which would take more than five years to complete. These events impacted the future of Mayor Farbridge and four council supporters who either decided not to run or were defeated.

The progressives were stunned over the loss of their leader. Changes came swiftly. The top senior staff was reorganized when Janet Laird retired to Whistler, B.C. and Derek McCaughan resigned. The shuffle occurred before Cam Guthrie took over as the city’s new mayor, December 1, 2014.

Observation: The city administration does not have much success when it comes to constructing major capital projects and staying on budget. Besides Urbacon, there was the Civic museum, both of which exceeded contracted costs by $33 million.

Scene Six: It’s 2015 and we’re off to a rocky start

Early in 2015, there were events that would shape the new council that was dominated by seven supporters of the previous Mayor and her policies. In January, Mayor Guthrie attacked me in an email urging his followers to ignore me. The outburst was attributed to a piece I published in guelphspeaks.ca in which I said the council was reviewing CAO Ann Pappert’s contract.

The Mayor, for whatever reason, supported Ms. Pappert until the day she gave her notice in April 2016 that included her extravagant retirement payoff estimated to be more than $150K. Early last year, concerned citizen, Rena Akerman, sent a detailed email to other citizens outlining the performance of the CAO in the past four years. Mayor Guthrie threatened legal action against Ms. Akerman. Fortunately for him, that didn’t happen.

Scene Seven: the Guelph Municipal Holdings debacle

In 2015, there was an even bigger scandal brewing. Mayor Guthrie and Coun. Karl Wettstein were appointed as council representatives on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) board of directors. The former mayor said GMHI was to manage the city-owned assets including Guelph Hydro, its subsidiary Envida Community Energy Corp. and the Guelph Junction Railroad.

Simmering below the surface was this disastrous experiment created by the former mayor. It is a wholly-owned corporation of the city. Mayor Farbridge appointed herself as chairperson of the GMHI board of directors, composed of a majority of her council supporters, plus two members of Guelph Hydro and two independent directors. CAO Ann Pappert was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GMHI and remained in that job for four years.

On May 16, 2016, the truth was revealed in a GMHI situation report signed by Ms. Pappert in her capacity as city CAO, and Pankaj Sardana, her successor at GMHI. In fact, in its five years of existence it has never made a dime but the losses climbed to more than $26.6 million. This loss, according to a May 16, 2016 was reported and presented to council, jointly by CAO Ann Pappert and Pankaj Sardana, CEO and CFO of GMHI.

The report stunned everyone when Mr. Sardana said GMHI had lost $26.6 million and had no financial ability to continue operations. It turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. GMHI had accepted a loan of $65 million from Guelph Hydro to expand its projects to achieve electric power self-sufficiency for the city. That loan is now an impaired asset on the city’s books and was on the 2015 Financial Information Report valued at $69 million. “Impaired Asset,” means that the receiver of the funds, GMHI, has no money to pay the interest on the loan. Also it has insufficient assets underlying the loan.

Over time, this large loan will have to be written off. Unless, the city can sell Guelph Hydro and profit from the estimated proceeds of more than $150 million. Later this year, the Strategic Options Committee will make its recommendation after shopping Guelph Hydro in the market place.

It is only recently revealed the former mayor and the GMHI board had secured land in the Hanlon Business Park and Downtown to build large natural gas-fired generation plants as part of its Community Energy Initiatives. Again, public input was not invited or considered.

The two natural gas plant sites were obtained when the Guthrie administration shut down operations. Guelph Hydro was brought into the city as part of its finances.

It is now plain what the former mayor was bent on accomplishing. Electric power self-sufficiency and sell Guelph Hydro to the highest bidder to get rid of the losses.

Please think about this: If Ms. Farbridge had been re-elected in 2014, we would still be kept in the dark while millions were poured into a scheme to make our city self-sufficient in electricity supply. If fact, Mr. Sardana said that in order to make the two $8.7 million District Energy Nodes to break even, it would require an additional investment of $60 million.

Did the former mayor ever consider the billion it cost to dismantle two partially built gas-fired plants by Premier Dalton McGuinty to save four Liberal seats?

Well folks, so far it’s only cost you and me $96 million including the $65 million loan from Guelph Hydro. It will eventually disappear into the mists of One Carden Street.

For comparison, the Ontario gas plant tear down cost just over a billion dollars. The population of Ontario (including us) is more than eight million people. So Guelph loses $96 million spread over some 121,500 residents and businesses. Our loss will cost $790 per person, babies, young, old and the infirm. That money has gone.

McGuinty’s gas plant loss cost each of the eight million population of the province $12,500.

But wait a minute! We are included in the Provincial figure so that means every citizen of Guelph is responsible for $13,293. A high price to pay for badly managed, high cost social engineering schemes, all of which failed on both levels of government.

The real problem is that it’s public funds that have been misspent. Regardless of whether it’s posted in the Guelph Hydro books or the city books, it’s a stunning loss and misuse of public money. The city has no choice but to write it off.

But here’s the concern for all citizens: Until there is an independent investigation and forensic audit of the whole GMHI debacle, the people will never know the truth. Most recent development is the dismissal of Rob Kerr, general manager of CEI and the formation of ”Climate Change Office.”

Is this what Karen Farbridge promised when she campaigned in 2006 to “Put Guelph back on track?” Just asking.

Scene Eight: Revenge: Thy sting is not so sweet

In early 2015, Susan Watson, a strong supporter of the Farbridge administration, hired a Toronto lawyer to represent her in an action before the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC). It was in regard to a $400 donation that had been given to former Ward Six candidate Glen Tolhurst by the civic action group, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). Her lawyer argued that GRG was not permitted to donate to candidates under the Ontario Elections Act (MEA).

Two of the three CAC members voted to have an independent auditor examine Mr. Tolhurst’s election financial statement and the role of GRG. As members of GRG, my wife, Barbara, and I, were subpoenaed to appear before the auditor, William Molson of Toronto. We were questioned for an hour and a half. A couple of weeks later the auditor presented his findings to the CAC committee exonerating Mr. Tolhurst and GRG of any breach of the Municipal Elections Act.

The estimated $11,000 costs of this procedure were paid by the taxpayers and not by Ms. Watson who initiated the complaint.

Scene Nine: Along comes the mother of municipal financial failures

Starting in 2011, GMHI annually deposited a $1.5 million dividend to the city. In 2015, GMHI said it had sent a total of $9 million to the city as dividends. The only problem was the GMHI never made any money. Ten days after signing the report, she left the city to work for the Province of Ontario.

So far, more than $8.7 million, the cost of installing the two District Energy nodes, has either been written off or written down. But there remains a number of unresolved issues including contracts with those buildings connected to the co-generation thermal system supplying hot and cold water. The city cannot afford to subsidize these already installed connections to five large buildings. The statement has been made that it will continue to supply the service. The city has maintained that the Community Energy Initiative is under review with decisions to be made when a staff report is presented to council.

The real problem lies with the $65 million Guelph Hydro loaned to GMHI after board chair Karen Farbridge and her board voted to fold Guelph Hydro and its subsidiaries into GMHI. Since then, the city has taken control of Guelph Hydro. But a major problem remains. In doing so the city has shifted the Guelph Hydro loan to GMHI into its own books as an asset, although impaired. That means that in 2015, that impaired asset had grown to $69 million because GMHI had no money to even pay the interest. The huge problem is that there are no assets in GMHI or funds to even pay the interest on the loan.

Well, the fact is the city now has the loan on its books it’s like lending your son or daughter $25,000 to go to college and never expecting it to be paid back. It’s all in the family.

Scene Ten: The fallout of financial mismanagement will affect all of us for years

Please think about this: If Ms. Farbridge had been re-elected in 2014, we would still be kept in the dark while millions were poured into a scheme to make our city self-sufficient in electricity supply. If fact, Mr. Sardana said that in order to make the District Energy Nodes to break even it would require an additional investment of $60 million.

It is only recently revealed the former mayor and her colleagues on the GMHI board had secured land in the Hanlon Business Park and Downtown, to build large natural gas-fired generation plants as part of its Community Energy Initiative.

Again, public input was not invited or considered. Did the former mayor ever consider the billions it cost to dismantle two gas-fired plants, partially completed by the McGuinty Liberals to save four Liberal seats?

Well folks, so far it’s only cost you and me $96 million including the $65 million loan from Hydro.

When you stop and think, imagine what that $96 million could have done to capital spending in the city. Particularly for a new downtown library, the former mayor promised that 19 years ago. Or the South End recreation centre that was promised by the same mayor nine years ago as a priority.

These are bread and butter issues. We have been held hostage for ten years now by a radical group of progressive councillors who are “big picture” representatives. They obsess about climate change, energy, bicycle lanes, public transit, water sold commercially from the aquifer, protecting the environment.

Running a city is not rocket science. Councillor’s primary responsibility is to make sure everything works. It includes roads, water supply, waste disposal, parks and recreation, cleaning the streets, picking up the garbage and creating jobs.

And please don’t tell me that we are better off than we were four years ago adding more than 400 new full time equivalent employees, with property taxes soaring by 14.2 per cent and user fees for using our own dump and managing our storm water.

 

 

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Former CAO Ann Pappert received $489,818 for 17 months work when she resigned

By Gerry Barker

March 16, 2017

I woke up the other day to read a city press release about the City of Guelph’s Sunshine list of employees earning more than $100,000 a year. I was not aware the city had its own Sunshine list.

There were some astonishing inclusions and exclusions.

According to the just released 2016 Provincial Sunshine list, former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, was paid $263,757.32 in 2016. Now you would assume that was for the year but Ms. Pappert left the city May 26, 2016, Seems like a lot of money for less than five months work.

So I checked the 2015 Provincial Sunshine list and it showed Ms. Pappert was paid $226,060.96.

The only possible conclusion was that Ann Pappert was paid $489,818.26 for 17 months work as CAO, from January 1, 2015 to May 26, 2016.

This was reported by the city to the Province for inclusion in the 2015/2016 official Sunshine lists of those public employees earning more than $100,000 a year

First, let’s do a little math. We’ll divide the money the Province says she received in 2016 by 5 = $52,757 per month. Now multiply that by 12 to determine what her annual salary would be, $633,084. That can’t be possible.

But, the 2015 salary reported last March showed that CAO, Ann Pappert, received a $37,591 increase for 2015. This increase was 17.11 per cent more than her previous base salary of $219,657 earned in 2014. Apparently, it has been assumed, Ms. Pappert was paid $257,248 in 2015. That was not the case. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, she received $226,060.

Hmmm, there remains a serious difference of Ms. Pappert’s employment payments.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi explained that the payment to Ms. Pappert was discussed in closed session prior to the approval of the 2015 budget, March 25, 2015.

For the past year, guelphspeaks has been trying to get at the truth because Mr. Amorosi said the increases decision was made by council in closed session, December 10, 2015. It included a retroactive payment of some $28,000.

Why does the Sunshine List show Ms. Pappert received $263,757 for five months work in 2016?

Does the city report what it pays its employees each year in the audited Financial Information Report (FIR) as required annually?

Or does it play games shoving expenses to the next year to avoid a negative variance that the city is not allowed to do and is required to balance its books when presenting the FIR at year end.

For the past five years of Ms. Pappert’s tenure as CAO, there has been a negative variance each year. That means the budget, of which Ms. Pappert oversaw, was overspent and money was taken from the reserves to balance the books as required by law.

Trouble is the reserves became seriously depleted dropping from a reported $70 million in 2009 to around $11 million in 2015. The BMA consultant group warned the city in 2014 that the reserves were in a “red flag” condition and required action to replenish.

Why was this allowed to occur?

But there is more:

Former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, left the city in August 2015. Today his name shows up receiving $188,999 in 2016, the equivalent of a full year on the job. Not bad for eight months work … in 2015. The question is why did Horsman leave? He was deposed as CFO in the November 2014 reorganization of the senior management and switched to the Waste Management, Environmental Services and Engineering portfolio.

Horsman took over to discover the debacle of the deal made with the Rizzo brothers of Detroit to recycle material shipped from the motor city. The deal fell apart and was reported to have cost Guelph some $2.5 million. In December 2015, Solid Waste Manager Dean Wyman, who was involved in the Detroit deal, left for a similar job in Edmonton.

With Horsman gone, it left just three Senior managers, CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers (DCAO) Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson.

The revelation of the large increase awarded by council to the remaining three top managers in March 2016, triggered the resignation of Mr. Thomson who said he was taking a job with the Town of Caledon. In April, Ms. Pappert announced she was resigning.

Along with her duties as CAO, Ms. Pappert was also Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), for four years. As CAO she signed off, along with her successor at GMHI, Pankaj Sardana the jointly presented the report to council, acting as shareholders, May 16, 2016. It revealed that the city-owned GMHI was broke and had lost $26.6 million. Ten days later she left her job.

In June, the city persuaded Mr. Thomson to return and take over as CAO.

The 2016 Provincial Sunshine List states Mr. Thomson received $214,026. Due to turbulence in the executive offices, Mr. Thomson revealed in October his new CAO salary is $230,000, plus a taxable benefit of $9,664. Sigh! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last week, the 2016 city’s “Sunshine List” release said that in 2016 Mr. Thomson earned $245,302 plus the taxable benefit for a total of $254,966. Mr.Thomson should be commended for giving the citizens his salary details despite the fact that they do not jibe with the official provincial data.

Here’s another strange development. DCAO Scott Stewart was hired in November 2015 to replace Mr. Horsman. There is no record in the provincial Sunshine Lists of his hiring including pay details, in either the 2015 or 2016. He obviously performed his duties in 2015 and 2016 but the record shows he doesn’t exist. Well he does and he is doing a fine job.

Yet another example of Voodoo accounting

In the case of DCAO Colleen Clack who was promoted in June to replace Mr. Thomson as chief of operations and public transit, there is no evidence that reflects her new responsibilities. She is listed at $145,316, the rate of her former job in 2015.

I believe that when someone holds a job in the calendar year, his or her remuneration should be reported in that year. How can the administration budget accurately when it conducts its business this way? We’re not talking about a few dollars here but thousands. It represents a deliberate distortion of the staff costs in the reporting year.

In 2015 the city listed the payments made to police staff earning more than $100,000. This year according to the city release, the police are not included because they file their own Sunshine List to the Province. But are the police numbers included in the total staff count?

Finally here is my favourite example of Voodoo management practices.

In 2014, Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin is pushing the Police Services Board to spend $33 million for a major renovation of police headquarters.

The city representatives on the Police Board, Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun Leanne Piper support him.

Remember in June 2014 he announced that he is leaving August 31 to take over as Chief of the Region of Waterloo Police Department.

That did not stop Larkin from promoting that the city coughs up the money for the renovation. So his final payout of $183,553.80 was reported in the 2015 provincial Sunshine list. He only worked eight months in 2014, but received a full year of pay,

But citizens in 2015, were also paying his replacement, Jeff Deruyter $188,283.56. According to the Provincial Sunshine List in 2015, the cost of two police chiefs was $371,836.

When the 2015 budget was prepared after Mayor Guthrie took over, the finance department had ample time to adjust the 2014 Larkin figure to reflect the exact time he was on the job. It is now clear that our city, despite the fact that he resigned in August 2014, paid him for the whole year.

And you wonder why our taxes and user fees outpace the Consumer Price Indexes promised to be reduced by Mayor Guthrie in his election campaign.

The 64 firemen plus those paramedics in the $100K bracket are included in the 2016 list.

These folks are public employees and the public has the right to know who they are and what they earn if it’s more than $100,000. It appears the same rules do not apply to the non-union managerial staff.

When comparing the two Sunshine lists, 2015 and 2016, the number of employees who have left the city also struck me.

The city release states there are 2,235 full-time and part-time employees. But what is the composition of staff and where do they work? How many full-time and part-time contract workers are employed and are they counted in the staff total?

This mismanagement of senior staff salaries, bonuses and taxable benefits has to stop. It is not transparent or accountable.

The people have to act to hold their elected representatives accountable. That means the council must stop conducting the city’s business in closed sessions thwarting the public’s right to know. Finally they must stop making stupid decisions that end up costing citizens its treasure.

The reserves are depleted, the debt is up and too many deals have been made based on potential future revenues such as the Police Headquarters project that is dependent on future development fees.

I hate to use the word “purge” but it applies here based on the evidence of financial mismanagement.

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GuelphSpeaks annual Top losers and winners for 2016

By Gerry Barker

March 12, 2017

It’s time to review 2016 when we look back and pick those events and people who won some and lost some. It was not a great year for our city as political reform is still a bridge too far. No matter what good things happen and there are a number, they are offset by the frequent absence of transparency, accountability and common sense governance at City Hall. Feel free to add or pooh-pooh the picks.

Coming up is the 2016 Sunshine list in a couple of weeks that will reveal all the names of public employees earning more than $100,000 a year. In June the 2016 audited Financial Information Report should be made available to the public on the city website.

First, Here are the losers:

  1. Mayor Cam Guthrie abandoned his promises to reduce property taxes to the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In three budgets over which he has presided, the property taxes approved by council were increased by 10.08 per cent. He, along with eight councillors, voted to approve the 2017 budget.
  1. Waste management and the struggle to unwind costly business practices and losses by the former management of waste control, collection and environmental services. The leadership is gone but citizens remain stuck with the financial fallout. The former internal auditor said the waste management operation was losing $270,000 a year. That flies in the prediction that controlling waste and diverting it from the landfill would be self-liquidating. Help is on the way, (see number 5 in winners).
  1. The hundreds of Canada geese who make their year-round home in Guelph paddling in the rivers and munching on parkland grass. Well, you know the rest of the story when they leave their calling cards. What ever happened to that $50,000 approved by council a couple of years ago to study the goose problem?
  1. Those two councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, who were members of the GMHI Board of Directors for four years and paid for their service, never said a word about the collapse of GMHI. During a GMHI discussion by council, Wettstein recused himself because he had a “pecuniary interest.” That’s not all he had.
  1. The privately owned Guelph Storm Junior Hockey club successfully extracted $5 million over ten years in a new rental agreement with the city. It effectively ties up the Sleeman Centre for 12 months each year. Under the old agreement, taxpayers were subsidizing the arena by $249,000 a year. Release the details of that contract including revenues, expenses, cost sharing and insurance. Go figure!
  1. To the eight councillors who usually vote as a bloc. They believe in the agenda of the former mayor and perpetuate her theories of a new Guelph. A city with a vibrant downtown, self-liquidating waste management, reduction of carbon emissions and approving high-density development but few single-family homes. Is this what you voted for?
  1. To Coun. Mark MacKinnon goes the annual Chutzpah Award for his assertion that paying taxes is not only an obligation but also a privilege. His rationale was because house prices have increased then people should be prepared to meet their ever-increasing tax bill. Even if it means taking out a second mortgage to pay their taxes. This sounds a little self-serving, isn’t Mark in the mortgage business?

Tah Dah! The Winners:

  1. Those three city councillors, Christine Billings, Dan Gibson and Bob Bell, who had the courage and understood their responsibility to protect the public trust in city government. When the mayor called the vote to approve the 2017 budget, these three Councillors voted no. They deserve your support no matter where you live in the city.
  1. While GS is not a big fan of Coun. Phil Allt, he performed a courageous act donating a kidney to his brother.
  1. The approval of a rationalization of the waste management and environmental services is the right step cleaning up a system that is out of control. Citizens spent $33 million building a compost plant but we cannot even buy the finished composted mulch. It’s sold privately.
  1. The resignation of Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert who left May 26 only after she had secured a job as an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Culture Tourism and Sports Ministry. Goodbye, hold the luck.
  1. The unfolding details of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. story of mismanagement, deception and a loss of $26.6 million. There are still many questions about this abortive project that conducted its business in closed sessions led by the former mayor. This is what happens when you operate in an opaque vacuum shutting out public participation.
  1. To former Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, who was fired without cause and sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. The case broke wide open when, in the process of examination for discovery, Mr. Poole’s lawyer received an external drive from the city Information Technology department that contained 53,000 files, most confidential and unrelated to the case. The city demanded a return of the drive after the story broke in Guelph Today. The result was a rapid mediation of the Poole case that produced a settlement. The outcome remains confidential. Well, I guess this is another case where the city loses another lawsuit. City Solicitor, Donna Jaques, has left for greener pastures joining the exodus of more than 14 senior and upper management employees who have left the city administration in the past 17 months..

 

 

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Expose! A trilogy of events by a city administration out of control

By Gerry Barker

February 6, 2017

Note from the Editor: This column is in two parts that covers and comments on recent events that reveal the toxic culture existing in our city administration. What you will learn in Part One, titled Triology, is how three events learned last week, have exposed the underlying weakneses of a management that is out of control.

In Part Two, titled Expose, are the details of some 53,000 emails sent chiefly by former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, revealing the secretive and personal misuse of the city servers by senior staff.

We encourage everyone to pass this column along to let as many people as possible learn the truth about secrecy, closed meetings and communications on the Internet city staff and council. And it has been going on for years behind the public’s back and is our right to know.

There were three events this past week that revealed how our city is being mismanaged by not only senior staff but by an element of city council.

Part One – Trilogy

BREAKING NEWS

CAO Derrick Thomson said Friday, February 3, that the 53,000 emails obtained by Bruce Poole’s counsel were sent in error. Apparently an external drive containing the emails was handed over to Poole’s counsel. When the story broke about the contents Friday morning, the city administration went into panic drill and requested the drive be returned. So far that has not happened. The CAO said if it is not returned the city will ask for a judge’s order to return it.

Sorry sir, that fox is out of the hen house.

The larger question is who handed the drive containing the 53,000 emails over to the Poole Counsel knowing what was in it? More on this in Part Two – Expose.

Here is the list of the three devastating revelations of how our city is being so poorly representative of the people’s rights, interests and concerns.

* We start with the announcement that city Solicitor, Donna Jaques, was leaving this week. She had been with the city since 2011 in charge of all legal matters including contracts, bylaws and litigation.

This development was followed after with 53,000 emails produced mostly by former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman. Former Chief Building Inspector Bruce Poole’s lawyer obtained the emails as part of his examination for discovery. You will recall Mr. Poole, a 30-year veteran in the building department, was fired in mid-2015 and sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. That lawsuit has still to be tried or settled in court.

As a public service, here is the list of witnesses if this case goes to trial: Former CAO Ann Pappert; former City Solicitor, Donna Jaques; former General Manager of Finances and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy; former CFO Al Horsman; current CAO Derrick Thomson; former Executive Director, Derek McCaughan; City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien; and General Manager of Human Resources, David Godwaldt.

Perhaps this is a good time to tell you about a city Bylaw known as the Indemnification Bylaw. This protects any staffer or elected official from being sued by any citizen. If they are, the staff’s legal costs will be paid by the taxpayers. It was signed by former CAO Ann Pappert and Mayor Cam Guthrie in 2015 following the Susan Watson case against Glen Tolhurst regarding receiving a $400 donation from GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). Both Mr. Tolhurst and GRG were cleared of any wrong doing by an independent auditor.

* Then came the report of a committee charged with examining the future of Guelph Hydro. Their findings were essentially flawed and biased. They commenced deliberations last fall and despite overwhelming public comments to not sell or merge the utility, they are seeking permission to sell or merge with another municipally owned Local Distribution Company (LDC).

The report states: “At this stage in the process, a large segment of those who commented want to maintain local control and public ownership, and there is low-level support for a sale, especially with a privately-owned utility.”

“The public engagement done so far also shows “no support for Guelph Hydro to buy other utilities,” the report says. And “if a merger is considered, participants prefer other utilities in the region and those who are ‘like-minded’ with Guelph Hydro.”

This is Important: So why is the committee, after five months of deliberations, recommending that the city dispose of Guelph Hydro? Their recommendation will be voted on at the February15 council meeting. If you want to address council on this matter, your have until February 10 to register, four days from now.

Let’s stop and think about these three developments and how they are linked and not necessarily in favour of the citizens. In my opinion, these developments are part of a conspiracy to misdirect, suppress, and deny the public their right to access this information.

* Ms. Jaques’s departure was not sudden despite appearances. It would take at least three to four months to search and get another job. But she had to know of the existence of those 53,000 emails and most likely was directly involved in the turnover during the examination for discovery in the Poole lawsuit case. She had to know how damaging those emails are when the reputation of her colleague’s ethics and credibility are at stake.

The remaining question is how many thousands of emails were exchanged between senior staff and still out there? Discovering the emails sent by the former CAO, Ann Pappert, would be useful to investigators by an independent audit of city operations

Chalk it up to the way the staff runs the city. They used what they believed were private confidential emails to chatter, gossip and express opinions about fellow staffers. Heck, even look for a job, with our employer in the dark. Manage your personal finances and discuss marital and health matters with other staffers. The sheer volume of those emails, averaging 125 emails sent every day Mr. Horsman was on the job. (He wrote 53,000 emails over a two-year period divided by 422 actual working days over two years).

I don’t know about you, but that’s a ton of emails, most of which concerned the fundamental operation of the city. This info was coming from the CFO, the person who handled the money.

As an aside, Mr. Horsman was the last CFO employed by the city in the past two years and two months. He lost his position in November 2014 and left the city in August 2015 to take over as CAO of Sault Ste Marie.

The evidence now persists that nothing has changed. The city administration operates chiefly in secret. They do it to prevent exposure of self-serving issues reaching the public domain. The proliferation of emails is an indicator of the manipulative strategies employed by both senior management and members of council.

It may explain why so many senior managers have left the city since the October 2014 civic election. Most of those leaving have left a legacy of mismanagement and problems caused by the policies adopted by three administrations. The situation was aided and abetted by inaccurate forecasting of budgets, lawsuits, and off the books major funding of the failed Community Energy Initiative that was controlled by the former mayor.

Here’re some of the former senior managers who have left the city since November 2014: Executive Director Janet Laird; Executive Director, Derek McCaughan; CFO Al Horsman; GM of solid waste management, Dean Wyman; Lawyer Scott Worsfold; GM of Finance and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy; CAO Ann Pappert; City Solicitor Donna Jaques; Acting GM of Finance, Susan Arum; Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole.

The tab, so far, is estimated to be more than $96 million misspent by the former Mayor’s Community Energy Initiatives.

This bring us to the proposed recommendation by a five member committee chaired by CAO Derrick Thomson, to dispose of the jewel of the city of Guelph, our hydro electric distribution system.

It is a desperate move to conduct an asset fire sale to cover up the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. losses of $96 million and counting.

The book value of Guelph Hydro is estimated to be $150 million. Its value is increasing because there is a great demand to get control of these LDC’s. Hydro One gobbled up more than 89 between 1996 and 2001. You will recall that Hydro One is being gradually sold off to private enterprise. Today there are only 70 remaining LDC’s in the province. You can appreciate the primal urge by the administration to liquidate this asset because they need the money.

I urge everyone to make their feelings heard with their councillors by telephone, emails, snail mail or personal contact to stop this recommendation February 15. Just showing up will help prevent this ill-advised effort to sell off Guelph Hydro.

Personally, I believe the motion, if made, to dispose of the utility should be amended to table the recommendation to allow more measured public input, not just seven business days.

In 2008, former mayor Farbridge attempted to convince council to sell Guelph Hydro because the city did not have sufficient capital to pay its $23 million share of the Federal-Provincial infrastructure grant plan. She was soundly rebuffed by an 8-5 vote. Then she called a $30 million note that Guelph Hydro owed the city to pay the infrastructure bill that grew to $27 million, due to add-ons including bike lanes and a time clock in the Sleeman Centre.

It now appears nothing has changed.

On or before February 15, please exercise your right to object and inform civic leaders of your opinion. We only get one chance to stop this and now is that time.

So, if council does approve selling or merging of Guelph Hydro, what are the alternatives?

Assuming the city receives an estimated $150 million for Guelph Hydro, citizens lose control of the operation, including what they pay for service as set by the new owners.

The proceeds will pay for the GMHI losses. The new owner could claim the $65 million stranded Guelph Hydro loan to GMHI. It currently is on the city books as an impaired asset, is due and payable. That could reduce the net proceeds. Do not be surprised if that loan is not on Guelph Hydro’s books.

The proceeds, I predict, will disappear before the civic election rolls around next year. Suddenly there are funds to build the South End recreation centre, the Wilson Street parking garage and perhaps the Downtown Library.

This will be a bonanza of political good will that could guarantee the re-election of the same council majority we have now.

It’s our choice and it happens next week.

Next: The Bruce Poole story and how it will change Guelph forever.

The day the administration was exposed as running a ship of fools

By Gerry Barker

February 6, 2017

Part Two – Expose

Let’s start by praising Bruce Poole for having the guts to go after the city he served so well and loved for 30 years. They did him dirt by firing him for challenging the administration for failing to follow its own bylaws regarding obtaining building permits for ALL such projects in the city.

The revelation that there were 50 such projects, all conducted by the city administration in which no building permits were requested for approval. It became the genesis of the former Chief Building Inspector’s $1 million lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.

Then, last Friday a report in Guelph Today, written by Tony Saxon, detailed how that, during the examination for discovery, some 53,000 confidential emails, authored by former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, were turned over to Mr. Poole’s lawyer.

A cursory examination of the email-gate reveals a fascinating collection of critical personal opinions, paranoia. petulance and what senior staff thought about their colleagues.

These include performance reviews of city employees; details of legal matters discussed in camera; criticism of city staff members; details of acute city operations; and even discussions about personal marital and health issues.

It’s a sorry cultural soup reflecting how messed up and irresponsible the members of the senior staff and others, including certain members of council.

The bottom line is, these emails, many marked confidential, were sent through City of Guelph servers. This makes those 53,000 documents that the users believed would never be made public, now part of the public record.

Kudo’s go to Bruce Poole’s legal counsel for obtaining these emails from the city ensuring the public’s right to know.

Across Ontario can you hear the shredders humming and emails being deleted?

(Suggest it would be better to use an expert for that process).

The source of these emails came from the former Chief Financial Officer of Guelph, Al Horsman. He left the city in August 2015 to become Chief Administrative Officer of Sault Ste Marie.

Email-Gate shows he used the city’s Internet servers to apply for another job. It even included preparing a power point presentation to the Sault’s selection committee. Using Guelph’s resources, Horsman landed his new job.

It makes one wonder how senior employees across the province are properly vetted when seeking new jobs. Is the process flawed? Are questions not asked? Why is the person leaving? Are references requested?

This applies to our former Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert who left the city to be appointed an Assistant Deputy Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport for the province.

Let’s review her leaving May 26, 2016. She was awarded an increase of $37,501 in a closed meeting December 10, 2015. So the question is, why did she leave a $257,501 job for one that probably pays much less?

She should be Bruce Poole’s most important witness as his case proceeds. The evidence is pointing to her as the fox among the chickens. In case you are wondering who are the chickens? They are us! These bureaucrats have suborned their responsibilities to the people by communicating by emails and conducting the public business in closed sessions.

I am astonished about the volume of Al Horseman’s emails for the two years he was a senior member of the administration totaled 53,000. The man is on the job 211 days a year reduced by weekends, vacation, statutory holidays and city shutdown periods

Just doing the math, Mr. Horsman wrote 125 emails a day. Further, that’s an average of 15.6 every hour for his eight-hour workday.

But it should come as no surprise because this is the way our city managers have operated, far from the public view or access for the past ten years.

Here are some examples of the email content delivered to Mr. Poole and his lawyer:

  • 30 individual staff performance reviews
  • Who were these employees and who conducted the reviews?
  • A calendar entry titled “Linamar – foregoing and/or deferring property taxes or development charges on future Linamar properties.

            It would appear that Linamar is getting a tax break on its property taxes. What are the details?

  • Confidential and private information in regard to the Urbacon action and settlement details” “Confidential and private information in regard to the Dolime legal action and settlement details.
  • What did Mr. Horsman know about the Urbacon situation and what was his role in the settlement?
  • Confidential emails between Horsman and his bank regarding personal investments.
  • Not a good idea to use your business computer for such private information or to seek another job.
  •  
  • Confidential email exchange between Horsman and CAO Anne Pappert regarding concerns about the performance of a senior city manager still with the city.

Well now, we are getting to the meat of the email exchange. Who is this senior manager and his/her job responsibilities? Did that person receive an increase in remuneration in 2015?

  • Confidential email exchange between senior management staff members in regard to “Terraview complaint re: Development charges @ 72 York Road.

Isn’t this public information? Where are the details? We have 13 employees in the  city engaged in communications. Why weren’t the details reported?

  • Several “corporate communications watch list” reports, including one item listed as “investigation of bacteria incident at City Well (Membro) – information protected under client-solicitor privilege.
  • And the people were never told?”

Nothing today in a public corporation is confidential. The exceptions are in the provisions as outlined in the Ontario Municipal Act to conduct closed sessions. With this revelation, it is apparent that cyber communication between senior staff often bypasses the OMA closed session regulations.

  • “Numerous occurrences where Al Horsman was using the City of Guelph’s computer system to seek and respond to several new and alternative job opportunities.”

Earning $182,000 a year does not include using your city computer to get another  job.

  • Negative comments (via email) about Mayor Cam Guthrie from a current member of council that was shared with others

No! Say it isn’t true. The Mayor thought all you senior staffers and council were  his friends.

  • Several emails detailing confidential terms of settlements in several legal matters.

This is not good but as CFO he was within his right. Legal cases are touchy and  the former mayor became known for her litigious bent. Now the city solicitor has left for greener opportunities in North Bay. Her leaving coincides with the  revelation of the 53,000 emails.

  • Confidential email exchanges between senior staff members in regard to concerns about a senior city manager who is still with the city.

            Yikes, if the senior staff had reservations, why is this person still with the city?

  • Private and personal emails between Horsman and other executive staff members in regard to personal matters such as marriage and health. 

Was this on city time?

  • Copies of confidential information shared by Horsman with former city staff.

This smacks of the existence of an elitis city staff club. Why would Horsman seek  conversation with former staffers?

  • “Confidential email exchange between Corporate Finance staff and senior management staff in regard to DGBA (financial concerns with the Downtown Guelph Board Association).”

It must be noted again that emails on the city servers are not confidential, as many have been titled. They are in the public domain.

There is indication that people are enquiring about obtaining the details of all those emails through the Freedom of Information Act (FIA).

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